Amid the countrywide lockdown, the National Board for Wild Life (NBWL) has recommended coal mining in a part of an elephant reserve in Assam.
It has recommended that part of 98.59 ha (hectares) reserve forest land that is a part of Dehing Patkai Elephant Reserve be used for opencast coal mining by North-Eastern Coal Field of Coal India Limited according to minutes of the 57th Meeting of the Standing Committee of National Board for Wildlife held on April 17 through video-conferencing.
The Standing Committee “recommended for approval” of the site which was earlier broken up by NECF and a new plan on this front needs to be submitted, claim reports.
Member of NBWL, Professor R Sukumar, a representative of the wildlife division and the state chief wildlife warden of Assam submitted to NBWL that 57.02 ha of forest land has already been used for mining by Coal India Limited and that in the balance 41.39 ha of the unbroken area a cautious approach needs to be adopted owing to the rich biodiversity according to the minutes.
The NBWL meeting was chaired by the environment minister, Prakash Javadekar.
The decision has been criticized by many environmentalists.
“The Assam Forest Department has completely failed in protecting the biodiversity of the State and has allowed all illegal mining of coal, stone, sand, etc., violating all rules and regulations. It is obvious that there is a corrupt nexus in operation and the State Forest Minister has become a mute spectator,” Green activist Rohit Choudhury told media. He said with this the government has gone against its own remarks on “rampant violation of local forest laws” made in November 2019.
“Elephant herds have strong fidelity to their range. They move around the same area for many years. Obviously such projects will affect their movement and demographics. I am not very aware of the landscape in this reserve but conflict is bound to increase if there are human-dominated areas in the neighbourhood,” said M Ananda Kumar, elephant biologist to media.